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One of the very first questions I get when I talk about the miles and points world is “Doesn’t opening lots of credit cards hurt your credit score?”
Of course you don’t have to have 43 credit cards like I do to get a lot of value from miles and points. As I often say, start slow, only go as fast as you feel comfortable, and above all, DON’T SIGN UP FOR A CREDIT CARD BECAUSE SOME GUY ON THE INTERNET SAYS YOU SHOULD!
For today’s post, we’re going to talk about 5 myths about credit and your credit score.
5 myths about credit and your credit score
- A credit card application will tank your score – Actually, the hard inquiry only counts for a few points, and other factors can compensate for the points lost (like utilization and credit mix). Also, inquiries affect people differently, depending on many other score factors. I know there are many people that talk about “hard pulls” but personally I’ve never been super worried about that. I have been doing this for nearly 5 years and last time I checked my credit score, it was is in the high 700s.
More on how credit card signups affect your credit: How do credit card signups affect your credit score?
- It takes a year to recover from the hard inquiry – True, literally, but the recovery is incremental over that time. Plus the credit limit on the new card can cause your score to go up significantly as soon as it’s reported, more than compensating for the ding caused by the inquiry. Here is some more on how utilization can affect your score: Is it bad to cancel a credit card?
- A high credit score will get you a low interest rate – Actually it only gets you the lower end of the issuer’s range for that card, but obviously having a high credit score will get you better rates than having a low interest rate.
- Carrying a balance helps your score – I know this seems ridiculous to think for many of us, but there are many people that believe this. Consumers with best scores use no more than 5-7% of their limits, and my recommendation is ALWAYS to pay off your credit card statements in full each month. If you have outstanding credit card debt, focus on paying that off FIRST, before you apply for any more cards.
- Avoiding credit is the best way to keep your credit score high – Actually, you have to have and use credit to build your credit score (SEE ALSO: Best cards for teenagers)
How to check your credit score and improve your credit score
Personally, I have always used Credit Sesame to check my credit score. You can check your credit score for free and I may earn a commission if you sign up for your free credit score check. You can also see a personalized analysis of the factors holding your score down, as well as a list of all of the accounts and hard inquiries reported on your TransUnion credit report. Keep in mind that your credit score is a snapshot of the moment in time it was calculated, and varies based on who calculated and what scoring model was used. Check several free credit scores to get an idea of what range you fall into.
There are also a variety of different credit cards that check your credit score for free. Here are a few of them
- Discover free credit score: https://www.discover.com/free-credit-score/ (FICO®)
- Creditwise from Capital One: https://creditwise.capitalone.com/#/home (VantageScore TU)
- Mint: https://credit.mint.com/ (VantageScore Equifax)
- Credit.com https://www.credit.com/free-credit-score/ (VantageScore Experian)
- Barclaycard Arrival+ card offers your FICO Score
- Citibank also offers it if you have some of its ThankYou brand cards such as the Citi Premier or Citi Prestige to name two.
- American Express offers a free FICO Score from Experian
Another nice thing about the different credit cards that give a free credit score is if you use Award Wallet to track your points, Award Wallet will also track your credit score for you.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your credit score, you might check out this article on Credit Sesame about ways to improve your credit score
Readers – what are your best tips on how to improve and check your credit score? Leave a note in the comments
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CreditKarma is free too!
My FICO Score has been between 830 and 850 for the last 3 years despite having a fair amount of debt – (all at 0%). In addition to your suggestions, I rotate my card use to avoid cards I care about being cancelled for non-use. I make certain payments are received 7-10 days early, to allow plenty of processing time and also because I have read that last minute payments also count against you. I keep my credit frozen so I am in control of credit checks. I keep a list of expected bills so that if a statement isn’t received I can still make the payment on time, and for expected bills, I make payments within the first few days of the month. If there ever is a problem I always receive the benefit of the doubt because of this habit. I never allow a late payment to occur, or to stand.
My last tip is about interest charges. I call my creditors from time to time to ask if I am receiving their lowest interest rate or if I qualify for any special promotions, it really works.